Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

It is amazing how things come around again. From birth, my mom instilled a love of books in me.

I still have the books from my childhood. Now, my nieces and nephews are cutting their reading teeth on some of my childhood books.

One of the many books I loved as a kid, was the Berenstain Bear Books. I still have my stack of Berenstain Bears books. A few months ago, we introduced two of the kiddos to the books, and it quickly became a favorite. 

 There are now new books that have been released; such as The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule and The Berenstain Bears Love Their Neighbors.

The Love Their Neighbor is their new favorite. I can’t count how many times we’ve read that book. Over and over again in one day.

The summary of the book is that most of the Berenstain Bears’ neighbors are like the Bear family—they keep their homes neat and clean. Except for the Bogg Brothers who live in a run-down shack. They are not neat and clean and the Berenstain Bears do not like having them as their neighbors.

But then the Berenstain Bears learn that being a good neighbor takes more than keeping a nice home.

While sitting through another session of reading the book for a fifth time that day, the book began to spin my writer’s brain. The story of the book has the underlining theme of the parable of the Good Samaritan.

In Luke 10, a lawyer gives Jesus his reading or version of the law.

26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”
27 So he answered and said, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

Back in Matthew 22, Jesus says that this is the greatest commandment.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

So, the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. The question is then asked in Luke 10, who is my neighbor?

Jesus uses a parable to explain and help us understand that our neighbor is not necessarily our home neighbors. It is everyone. The parable starts …

30 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

The road that is mentioned in the verse was a rocky, winding descent of about 3,300 feet in 17 miles.

It was notorious for thieves and danger. This man was traveling on the road, and he came in contact with the thieves, who did a number on him. The man was now injured, exposed to the elements, and in desperate need of help.

Soon a priest came upon the man

31 Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

Here was a priest, traveling on the road, and he came upon the man. Now, it is not clear why the priest passed the injured man. Maybe he thought it was beneath him to help the man, or didn’t dare to stop and help for fear of the thieves lurking around the area. Whatever the reason, he simply passed by without a second thought.

After the priest passed the man, a Levite came by and followed the same routine as the priest.

32 Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.

Jesus was making a point, mentioning these two types of individuals. He could have used anyone, but He used two men who were of higher authority, status, and even wealth. Two men had more than enough means to help the man, but they passed on by.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.

Now, Jesus using a Samaritan to help is another significance. A Samaritan was not an acceptable character in Jesus’ time.

To understand, we have to go back into time a bit. The Samaritans were a group in the Bible that lived in the area of Israel following the Assyrian conquest.

The origin of the Samaritans, goes back to the age of the kings. After King Solomon ruled over the Israelites, the unwise actions of his son Rehoboam in the tenth century BC led to a split into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, each with their own king.

Despite repeated warnings from prophets sent by God, both kingdoms devolved into corruption and sin. And therefore, God punished them for their actions.

In 721 B.C., the northern kingdom of Israel fell to the Assyrians. Many of the people of Israel were led off to Assyria as captives, but some remained in the land and intermarried with foreigners planted there by the Assyrians. These half-Jewish, half-Gentile people became known as the Samaritans.

Samaritans are first mentioned in the Bible in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. The Samaritans remaining in the land opposed the rebuilding efforts and caused problems for Nehemiah and his fellow workers (Nehemiah 6:1-14). This was the beginning of a long-lasting hatred between Jews and Samaritans.  

The Samaritans, being a mix of already spiritually corrupt Israelites and pagan foreigners, created a religion for themselves that the Jews considered heresy.

They established their own way of worship, and they had their own unique version of the five books written by Moses, the Pentateuch, but rejected the writings of the prophets and Jewish traditions.

This is why Jesus used the Samaritan as the one to help the injured man.

The Good Samaritan, then, was not a real person. He was a symbol. He used the backdrop of the Jews’ hatred for Samaritans to show that everyone was his neighbor, even those considered an enemy.

And it was the “enemy” that helped the injured man.

34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
37 And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

These verses end in another command; go and do likewise. Jesus has commanded us to show the same amount of compassion to people, despite who they are or their background.

Now we have to ask ourselves; how often do we step around a person in need? It could be anyone, but we step around them and not give a hoot.

We might judge someone from their outward appearance, and we step around them. Too often we step-around. We just don’t give a hoot about our fellow man and their needs.

But we have a direct command from Jesus. Love your neighbor and show them mercy. From your actual neighbor to the person ahead of you in line at the store.

Everyone is our neighbor, and we should show the same amount of compassion the Samaritan did.

The Samaritan didn’t ask who the beaten man was; what his background was, or if he was rich or poor.

He simply saw a person in need.

He loved and showed compassion to his neighbor, as we all should.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.